Pharmacists rally against new provincial funding structure
New deal will cut fees paid to pharmacists and reduce direct funding to pharmacies
About 20 pharmacists held a rally Thursday morning outside Alberta government offices in Calgary to protest the plan to cut $150 million in funding that helps cover their dispensing fees and other services.
It was just one of a number of rallies planned in Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat by Pharmacists of Alberta Unite, which bills itself as a grassroots group of individual pharmacists from across the province.
Under a new deal with the province, a number of fees paid to pharmacists will be cut and direct funding to pharmacies will be reduced, with some money held back each quarter in order to deal with any budget shortfalls.
Pharmacist Mark Percy told the rally outside the McDougall Centre in Calgary that the province is being short-sighted and the changes will cost the health-care system more in the long run.
"There's 30, 40, 50 things that we could have done to reduce costs, but instead the government had their agenda and they were going to follow it," he said.
"We need to get back to the negotiating table to hear what we can do and to make sure that our voice is heard going forward."
The government says the new funding structure will save $150 million over the next two years and said the current payment structure was unsustainable.
Last month, a spokesperson for the health minister said that, without the new agreement, funding for pharmacies was forecast to rise by 12.3 per cent over the next two years.
The new funding structure also puts caps on the number of times a pharmacist can bill for patient followups and reduces fees for influenza injections.